Archive | Academia

In the Future, Will a Ph.D. Be More Important to Get A Law Teaching Job — Or Less?

Over at CoOp, Dave Hoffman recently made an interesting prediction about the likely value, over the next few years, of having a Ph.D. to get an entry-level law teaching job:

There are more PhDs in the legal academy every year. They’ve all of the motivation in the world to demand the training as a credential for entry level hires, and as they age in their schools they will begin to flex their muscles. Looking ahead to 2015, I’d say that the current cutoff of schools that softly demand a PhD for entry level hires (i.e., 1-10 or thereabouts) will trend toward all of the top tier.

I’m not so sure. Such things are hard to measure, but my sense is that Ph.D.s are often overvalued in entry-level hiring right now. Hiring committees change every year, but some committees see them as a very big deal. Time will tell whether that perception is accurate. Right now that perception is based on a prediction about the kind of scholarship those with Ph.D. credentials are likely to produce — more serious and more important than those with just a J.D. But we don’t know if that prediction will pan out. Maybe it will. But maybe it won’t. And if it doesn’t, the preference for Ph.D.s. at some schools likely will soften. We may end up looking back at the present as a time when hiring committees overvalued the Ph.D. credential and schools tends to overhire Ph.D.s. Of course, Dave may be right that those on the inside will then want to replicate themselves. That much is human nature. But I suspect the track record of Ph.D.-versus-non-Ph.D. hires over the next decade will play a significant role in determining the long-term picture of how much the academy values the credential.

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Some of the “Homogenized” Temperature Data is False

When the CRU at East Anglia disclosed that it had lost some of the raw temperature data, leaving only the “homogenized” data, some honest commentators expressed the hope that the homogenizing was competently done.

Anyone who has been following Climate Audit for the last few years knows that at least some of the adjustments to the raw data done by the major data depositories appear to have been incompetently done at best. The statistical techniques used in the scientific backwater of historical climatology are often ad hoc, bearing little relation to the techniques that are standard in other fields. In particular, their techniques for handling missing data are particularly unscientific.

Perhaps the most accessible blog post demonstrating the effects of homogenization adjustments on a set of temperature records is by Willis Eschenbach at Watts Up With That.

The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero

People keep saying “Yes, the Climategate scientists behaved badly. But that doesn’t mean the data is bad. That doesn’t mean the earth is not warming.”

Let me start with the second objection first. The earth has generally been warming since the Little Ice Age, around 1650. There is general agreement that the earth has warmed since then. See e.g. Akasofu. Climategate doesn’t affect that.

The second question, the integrity of the data, is different. People say “Yes, they destroyed emails, and hid from Freedom of information Acts, and messed with proxies, and fought to keep other scientists’ papers out of the journals … but that doesn’t affect the data, the data is still good.” Which sounds reasonable.

There are three main global temperature datasets. One is at the CRU, Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, where we’ve been trying to get access to the raw numbers. One is at NOAA/GHCN, the Global Historical

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Physicists Ask American Physical Society to Rescind Its Statement on Global Warming Because It Was Based on “Cheat[ing]” and “Corrupted” Work

While the wider world is just beginning to realize that the subfield of paleoclimatology is in shambles (and has been for the last decade), scientists in related disciplines are increasingly fighting back against the shoddy work and orthodoxy that was foisted on them.

A small group, including several prominent physicists, are asking the American Physical Society to rescind its political statement on climate change (tip to Bishop Hill):

Dear fellow member of the American Physical Society:

This is a matter of great importance to the integrity of the Society. It is being sent to a random fraction of the membership, so we hope you will pass it on.

By now everyone has heard of what has come to be known as ClimateGate, which was and is an international scientific fraud, the worst any of us have seen in our cumulative 223 years of APS membership. For those who have missed the news we recommend the excellent summary article by Richard Lindzen in the November 30 edition of the Wall Street journal, entitled “The Climate Science isn’t Settled,” for a balanced account of the situation. It was written by a scientist of unquestioned authority and integrity. A copy can be found among the items at http://tinyurl.com/lg266u, and a visit to http://www.ClimateDepot.com can fill in the details of the scandal, while adding spice.

What has this to do with APS? In 2007 the APS Council adopted a Statement on global warming (also reproduced at the tinyurl site mentioned above) that was based largely on the scientific work that is now revealed to have been corrupted. (The principals in this escapade have not denied what they did, but have sought to dismiss it by saying that it is normal practice among scientists. You know and we know that that is simply untrue.

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Debunking Briffa’s Version of the Hockey Sticks

Among the most ethically challenged of the scientists at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia is Keith Briffa. A couple of months ago, the Bishop Hill blog retold in detail the sad story about Briffa’s own version of the Hockey Stick, which he was able to keep alive by his attempts to prevent other scientists from discovering what he had done with the data, a practice facilitated by biased journals that refused to apply their own rules.

Bishop Hill:

The bristlecone pines that created the shape of the Hockey Stick graph are used in nearly every millennial temperature reconstruction around today, but there are also a handful of other tree ring series that are nearly as common and just as influential on the results. Back at the start of McIntyre’s research into the area of paleoclimate, one of the most significant of these was called Polar Urals, a chronology first published by Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. At the time, it was used in pretty much every temperature reconstruction around. In his paper, Briffa made the startling claim that the coldest year of the millennium was AD 1032, a statement that, if true, would have completely overturned the idea of the Medieval Warm Period. It is not hard to see why paleoclimatologists found the series so alluring. . . .

[In 2005, Steven] McIntyre discovered that an update to the Polar Urals series had been collected in 1999. Through a contact he was able to obtain a copy of the revised series. Remarkably, in the update the eleventh century appeared to be much warmer than in the original — in fact it was higher even than the twentieth century. This must have been a severe blow

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Looking Back at the Hockey Stick Thesis: The JoNova Acoount

Besides last year’s Bishop Hill post discussed below, another blog account of the “Hockey Stick” thesis that merits excerpting is at JoNova. I do this despite my finding its tone a bit overheated and its generalizations not being adequately qualified.

Substantively, I disagree with its treatment of the evidence in favor of the Medieval Warming Period being warmer than the 1990s as if it were well established by scientific evidence. Even Steven McIntyre, who debunked the Hockey Stick, is generally careful not to assert that as fact. Because of sampling problems and statistical issues, McIntyre views the state of the evidence as insufficient to establish with adequate certainty which period was warmer. Nonetheless, the substantial evidence that the Medieval period was indeed warmer grows every year.

JoNova:

In 1995 everyone agreed the world was warmer in medieval times, but CO2 was low then and that didn’t fit with climate models. In 1998, suddenly Michael Mann ignored the other studies and produced a graph that scared the world — tree rings show the “1990’s was the hottest decade for a thousand years”. Now temperatures exactly “fit” the rise in carbon! The IPCC used the graph all over their 2001 report. Government departments copied it. The media told everyone.

But Steven McIntyre was suspicious. He wanted to verify it, yet Mann repeatedly refused to provide his data or methods — normally a basic requirement of any scientific paper. It took legal action to get the information that should have been freely available. Within days McIntyre showed that the statistics were so flawed that you could feed in random data, and still make the same hockey stick shape nine times out of ten. Mann had left out some tree rings he said he’d included. If someone did a graph like

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Looking Back at the Hockey Stick Thesis: The Bishop Hill Account

Because a big part of the scientific misconduct in ClimateGate involves Michael Mann’s now discredited “Hockey Stick” thesis, I thought it might be good to review a couple of the better posts outlining some of the misbehavior. The first is a long post from 16 months ago at the Bishop Hill blog (tip to Andrew Bolt).

The Bishop Hill post goes into great detail to show how the UN’s IPCC was complicit in the conspiracy of scientists to keep the Hockey Stick thesis alive and to retain it as sound science in the IPCC Report.

Here is an excerpt dealing with data manipulation and the initial refusal to share data:

We have seen above that one of the chief criticisms of the hockey stick was the fact that its author, Michael Mann, had withheld the validation statistics so that it was impossible for anyone to gauge the reliability of the reconstruction. These validation statistics were to be key to the subsequent story. At the time of their press release Wahl and Amman (colleagues of Mann) had made public the computer code that they’d used in their papers. By the time their paper was submitted to Climatic Change, McIntyre (the statistician at Climate Audit) had reconciled their work with his own so that he understood every difference. And he therefore now knew that Wahl and Amman’s work suffered from exactly the same problem as the hockey stick itself: the R2 number was so low as to suggest that the hockey stick had no meaning at all, although another statistic, the reduction of error statistic (or RE) was relatively high. It was only this latter figure that had been mentioned in the paper. In other words, far from confirming the scientific integrity of the hockey stick, Wahl and Amman’s work confirmed

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LSAC Study on Law School Gaming Resources for US News Rankings

My law school’s Librarian and Associate Dean, Billie Jo Kaufman, sent around this latest newsletter from the Law School Admissions Council re a new study on how law schools move resources around in order to maximize USNWR rankings (thanks Billie Jo!).  Here is part of the LSAC executive summary:

Fear of Failing:  the Effects of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools, by Michael Sauder, and Wendy Espeland.  Love ’em or hate ’em, the rankings are a fact of life for law schools.  This report looks at the effect of the USN rankings on legal education, and it’s not peripheral.

From the Executive Summary:

One general effect of the USN rankings on law schools is that it has created pressure on law school administrators to redistribute resources in ways that maximize their scores on the criteria used by USN to create the rankings, even if they are skeptical that this is a productive use of these resources. This redistribution is illustrated by two examples mentioned consistently by the administrators interviewed: (a) increases in marketing expenditures aimed toward raising reputation scores in the USN survey and (b) increases in merit scholarships intended to improve the statistical profile of incoming classes. A more subtle form of resource redistribution is also described in this section: the adoption of strategies by some schools to “game” the rankings.

Some forms of this redistribution comes in the forms of brochures and other publications designed to enhance a school’s reputation, which is a full 40% of the ranking.  Many administrators acknowledge that many these enhancing publications are probably not read before being recycled (go green!), but peer pressure makes them spend upwards of $100,000 to produce and distribute these publications anyway.  Library volume count, by the way, represents 0.75% of the weight

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Responses to “Rethinking Blogging-As-Scholarship”

Last night’s post Rethinking Blogging-As-Scholarship has triggered some interesting responses, and I wanted to provide links for those interested: Doug Berman, Steve Bainbridge, Ann Althouse.

In collective response to Doug, Steve, and Ann, I agree that the question isn’t whether blogging “is” scholarship, “can be” scholarship, or “has to be” scholarship. Rather, I think the question is the extent to which those who write scholarly blog posts are participating in a useful way (and are recognized as participating in a useful way) in the scholarly enterprise. My sense is that they often are, more than I anticipated in 2005. [...]

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Oral Argument in Dartmouth College Alumni Case:

This Friday the New Hampshire Superior Court will hear oral argument in the latest Dartmouth College alumni case (Brooks v. Dartmouth College).  This is a case that was brought by seven individual Dartmouth alumni after the Executive Committee of the Association of Alumni voted to settle the lawsuit brought by the previous Ex Com, notwithstanding the fact the Court (as I predicted it likely would) denied Dartmouth’s motion to dismiss.  The Court’s excellent opinion in that case is available here.  The pleadings in the current case are here.

The current case, like the previous case, arises from the 1891 Agreement between the Dartmouth Trustees and the alumni of the College, acting through the Association of Alumni, that gave the alumni the right to elect half of the non-ex officio members of the Board of Trustees.  At the time, the Board was comprised of 12 members, of which 2 served ex officio (the Governor of New Hampshire and the Dartmouth president).  Upon striking the agreement, over the next two years, 5 of the appointed trustees resigned and were replaced with elected trustees.  Over time, the size of the board expanded, and by the time I was elected a trustee in 2005 there were 8 elected Alumni Trustees, 8 appointed Charter Trustees, and the Governor and College president as ex officio members.  As I have discussed in detail elsewhere, the 1891 Agreement was the culmination of decades of negotiations between the trustees and college administration on one hand and the alumni on the other.

In 2007 after a string of petition trustees were elected to the Board, a majority of trustees voted to impose a board-packing plan, which added 8 new appointed seats to the board, making 16 appointed and 8 elected trustees.  I won’t rehash that here, except to [...]

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Conservatives, Political Correctness and the Academy

Stanley Fish has a thoughtful post on these and related issues.

I agree with Fish that “affirmative action”  for conservatives or some such would be an inappropriate response to the gross ideological imbalance in American academia.  (On the other had, a little, okay, a lot, more self-consciousness by left academics regarding whether they are improperly implicitly or explicitly smuggling ideological considerations into hiring–I was once grilled by telephone, after the official interviews, by a senior professor regarding my views on affirmative action when being considered for a lateral chair, with the explicit premise that if I didn’t pass the quiz, the professor would vote against me and rally her allies against me–would be welcome).

And for reasons Fish discusses, even a completely ideologically neutral hiring process would likely perpetuate the one-sidedness of the American academy.  I think this is a problem, not because the conservative side is somehow “entitled” to “fair” representation within the academy, but because liberal students are currently not being well-served educationally by their professors.

In particular, studies show that approximately 40% of American adults consider themselves to be conservatives.  I would therefore posit that a well-educated American college graduate should have some idea of what mainstream conservatives think, and why they think it.

Yet the late controversy over Rush Limbaugh and the Rams suggests that many well-educated liberals don’t know the first thing about American conservatism.  In particular, I found it extremely troubling that so many columnists, bloggers, political figures, and so on, were gullible/ignorant enough to believe that a mainstream figure like Limbaugh publicly praised the assassination of MLK, or stated that “slavery had its merits,” without any apparent controversy at the times these alleged remarks were made, with no diminishing of his 20 million strong audience, and with no harm to his political standing [...]

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Prof. Howe Responds

Last week, I criticized a review by Prof. Stephen Howe of Shlomo Sand’s book, The Invention of the Jewish People.  Given the somewhat personal nature of the criticism, I invited Prof. Howe to respond, which he does below:

Thanks for your courtesy in letting me know about your posting on Volokh, which I read with great interest (as I also did the ensuing comments from others).

Surely it’s clear that my remark about people with no discernible expertise refers to those who have launched wild and abusive attacks on Sand, not to every blogger who has commented on the book. The latter would indeed have been a wild, absurdly over-general charge – and in any case I have of course not read more than a fraction of the truly remarkable outpouring of commentary, in several languages, which continues to appear. I do not find abuse of that kind in your own criticism, so naturally did not have you among my implied targets.  However, where you say you ‘haven’t seen anyone call Sand anti-Semitic’, I’m afraid I have come across many such instances. Just try Googling the relevant words!

As to my own knowledge or lack thereof, a more careful glance through my past publication list would reveal that I have written a fair bit over the years on Israeli history and politics, in both journalistic and more academic veins. I have been working for some while on a book on Israel’s ‘history wars’, and from both that and a more longstanding ‘layperson’s interest in Jewish history’ am I think fairly well acquainted with most of the very disparate controversies into which Sand ventures. Insofar as, in my view, the real point and purpose of Sand’s polemic is not about ancient history but present-day Israeli politics, I have followed these [...]

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Unintentionally Ironic Book Review of the Week

Professor Stephen Howe of Bristol University reviewed Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People in the Independent.  The review itself says nothing of particular interest, and any discussion of the origins of the demographic origins of modern Jews people that doesn’t reference the genetic evidence is doomed to be worthless.

But here’s the unintentionally ironic part:

The blogosphere has been buzzing with wild charges and vulgar abuse against Sand’s book – most repeatedly, predictably and depressingly, calling it anti-Semitic. Almost none of those assailants, naturally, has any discernible expertise in any of the fields Sand touches on.

In fact, much of the criticism I’ve seen (plus my own), is either by people who do have some demonstrated expertise in the area, or who link to/cite those who do.  (For that matter, I haven’t seen anyone call Sand anti-Semitic, but many have correctly pointed out that his theory that most Ashkenazic Jews descended from Khazars finds virtually no support among geneticists or linguists, but is quite popular with anti-Semites around the world, who have been basically the only ones keeping the “controversy” alive.)

But what of Prof. Howe?  From his website:

My main focus has been on British imperial history, including the role of imperial questions in domestic British politics; but my writing also involves a strong comparative element, which embraces a growing interest in ideas about American ’empire’ today. Much of my recent and current work engages with the very concept of colonialism and associated terms, including reflection on and probing of the limits, the uses and indeed the abuses of the concept itself. Much, too, addresses broad theoretical and comparative questions about anti- and post-colonialism. I’m currently completing three interrelated books: on the intellectual consequences of decolonisation, on anticolonial intellectuals, and on representations and legacies of late-colonial

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Another reason to be happy you went to law school

Louis Menand’s new article The Ph.D. Problem: On the professionalization of faculty life, doctoral training, and the academy’s self-renewal. Cliff Notes version: the academy (the tenured folks who run things) have every incentive to take in huge numbers of Ph.D. candidates, and turn them into ABD drones to teach undergraduates–even though about half of them will never finish the Ph.D. program, and half of those that do finish will never get a tenure-track job. The result is the over-production of Ph.D.’s who are highly specialized but who are not very good at doing the things that universities should foster (e.g., teaching to non-specialists, intellectually engaging with the world outside the academy). The hyper-specialization puts non-tenured people (including Ph.D. candidates, and young teachers) at the mercy of the rigid political correctness of the tenured folks. Ten years of time invested in getting a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature leaves you with almost no job choices in your field, if you get blackballed for non-p.c. attitudes. 

“[T]he most important function of the system, both for purposes of its continued survival and for purposes of controlling the market for its products, is the production of the producers. The academic disciplines effectively monopolize (or attempt to monopolize) the production of knowledge in their fields, and they monopolize the production of knowledge producers as well.” Menard applies the above statement to law as well as to humanities Ph.D. programs, but as he explicates, the problem is a lot worse in the Ph.D. context, because the credential takes so much longer to obtain. [...]

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Dear Smith College Seniors Spamming Sites Looking for Survey Participants …

If you look in my previous two posts, you’ll see what I assume are automatically generated surveymonkey.com requests for participants on a study on the media by Smith College students.  Let me express to the Smith College students who thought this a good idea, and whatever faculty supervisor approved it, that this is Not a Good Idea.  It is distracting, annoying, and unprofessional.  Here, by the way, is what the link leads to:

PURPOSE OF STUDY: You are invited to participate in a research study for a political psychology seminar. The purpose of the study is to explore where people get their political information and how credible they perceive the sources to be.

CONFIDENTIALITY: The survey will be completely anonymous and participants will never be contacted post completion.

COMPENSATION: Post completion, participants will have the opportunity to be entered into a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

RIGHT TO REFUSE OR WITHDRAW: The decision to participate in this study is entirely up to you. You may refuse to take part in the study at any time without affecting your relationship with the investigators of this study, or Smith College. Your decision will not result in any loss or benefits to which you are otherwise entitled. You have the right not to answer any single question, as well as to withdraw completely from the study at any point during the process; additionally, you have the right to request that the researcher not use any of your research material up to that point.

RIGHT TO ASK QUESTIONS: You have the right to ask questions about this research study and to have those questions answered by us before, during or after the research. If you have any further questions about the study, at any time feel free to contact Lauren Duncan

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Robert Tsai on ‘Eloquence and Reason’

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a new book on constitutional interpretation and language by my colleague, Washington College of Law professor Robert Tsai – Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture.  Constitutional rhetoric and interpretation are not my areas, but I started reading the book and have found it to be a lively, provocative essay, though I don’t really feel competent to comment on the content deeply.

One thing I will say, though, is that I appreciate both the quality of writing in this essay, even as a non-expert, and also appreciate very much the method of the humanities that it represents.  I have thought that traditional methods of the humanities – the interpretation of text in its linguistic as well as historical richness – has suffered somewhat in legal scholarship in recent years under a certain economics-oriented reductivism.  That’s a broader topic for a different day, however.  But Robert Tsai is a gifted writer and thinker, and even as (maybe especially as) a non-specialist, his book is a pleasure to read.

The comments to my original post, in particular Orin’s question about results and rhetoric, caused me to go back to Robert Tsai and ask if he might give us a short statement on the book, and say something about the interpretive question.  Robert was kind enough to do so, and so I am putting up his short response here.  Robert – our thanks for joining us here at Volokh with a contribution!

Many thanks to Ken and everyone at the Volokh Conspiracy for the opportunity to say a few words about Eloquence and Reason.  The book examines First Amendment law as a cultural system: not simply a collection of legal decisions or even a normatively desirable set of substantive commitments, but also a

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